How we work to save animals (part 5): Building relationships
Note: This blog is part of our series highlighting how we fight—and win—for animals. This post focuses on how we’re creating a stronger animal protection movement through partnerships, trainings, support, collaboration and more. Previous posts have covered our advocacy efforts with governments and corporations, as well as our direct care, rescue and sanctuary work.
Upon finding a nice dark spot in a family’s attic, a pregnant raccoon might think, “Ah, here’s the perfect place for me to give birth and raise my babies!” The home’s human family, unfortunately, might see the situation differently and resort to an ill-advised “solution” that endangers the mom and her young.
This is just one example of how the potential for conflicts between people and wild animals exists in every type of community—urban, suburban and rural. By providing trainings about nonlethal solutions to human-wildlife conflicts, our teams change—and save—even the littlest lives.
In this case, the simplest solution would be to wait a few weeks until the baby raccoons are old enough to leave with their mother. The human residents can then find and fix the home’s structural defects that allowed a wild animal to enter in the first place. Homeowners’ attempts to trap and relocate a raccoon family almost always lead to the mother being separated from her children, which can result in their deaths.
We’ve worked for decades to save wild animal lives and prevent negative outcomes. By training community leaders and animal care and law enforcement agencies in nonlethal solutions to human-wildlife conflicts, we’re creating more humane communities across the U.S. To date, more than 540 agencies have signed our Wild Neighbors pledge, committing to end the needless killing of wildlife in their communities. So far in 2022, our Wild Neighbors team has trained over 1,000 animal care and control professionals from nearly 700 different agencies/organizations.
This is just one facet of the wide-reaching and resonant training work we conduct. Fighting for all animals, our mission, is a big job, and we can’t do it alone. That’s why we’ve established a variety of outreach and training programs that prepare community leaders, volunteers, local organizations and planning and law enforcement agencies to humanely address an enormously wide range of animal welfare concerns.
Our outreach philosophy is simple: To create a more humane world, we need to build relationships and trust with the people and organizations involved in animal welfare work. And as Hilary Hager, who heads our Outreach, Engagement and Training department, likes to say: When we ask someone to help, it shouldn’t be the first time they’ve heard from us. It’s essential that we build those relationships in advance, listening to what groups need and tapping our expertise to offer them useful training or provide resources and information. Our website geared toward the animal protection community, HumanePro, is a digital space where frontline animal advocates come together, sharing information on advocacy opportunities, jobs, trainings, how-to guides and in-depth blogs and articles on relevant topics.
We aim to build lasting and meaningful relationships with law enforcement officials, for instance, through our Law Enforcement Training Center, which last year held more than 100 seminars for nearly 4,000 officers, prosecutors and animal care professionals nationwide. Many of those trainings were in service to small and rural agencies that lack resources and, if not for the Humane Society of the United States, would not have access to animal-related training. We participate in conferences and events and represent the HSUS with memberships to local, state and national law enforcement organizations. We honor outstanding officers with Humane Law Enforcement Awards—well-deserved plaques that acknowledge law enforcement who have taken an exemplary stand for animal protection.
Reciprocal relationships develop: Our Animal Rescue Team might help a local sheriff’s office resolve an animal cruelty case, and officers might later testify in support of legislation we’re promoting. The key is to lay a groundwork of trust and familiarity.
Convening the experts
I’m proud to say we bring people together to advance a variety of animal welfare reforms. Our Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association works with more than 1,500 veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary students each year to advocate for reforms related to puppy mills, wildlife protection, farm animal welfare, animals in research and testing, access to care and other issues.
HSVMA also provides continuing education to more than 2,500 veterinary professionals each year through an online webinar series and in-person events such as Animal Care Expo, our annual conference that convenes animal welfare professionals and volunteers to share knowledge, gain inspiration and build lasting connections. Animal welfare is often not a key component of the veterinary school curriculum, and HSVMA helps fill that gap, engaging with more than 2,000 veterinary students annually through a host of animal welfare-related activities and events.
Additionally, our Rural Area Veterinary Services program provides hands-on clinical training and experience for more than 300 veterinary students and professionals each year, empowering professionals with the knowledge and skills to expand access to care in communities around the country.
Partnering for pets
We help rescue animals by removing them from cruelty situations or transferring them out of the path of disasters, in response to requests from state agencies or law enforcement entities. This is possible because of our Shelter and Rescue Partner program, a network of over 400 local shelters and rescues that provide the animals with veterinary care and behavioral rehabilitation and ultimately place them in loving homes, as so many have already done most recently for approximately 4,000 beagles.
While local organizations help us with placement of companion animals in need, we provide training and mentorship on issues impacting pets and their families, such as advocating for pet-inclusive housing, humanely managing community cats and supporting local shelters that have fewer resources through a peer-to-peer approach.
In addition, through our partnership with Chewy, we have distributed pet food to over 50 organizations this year to fill pet food pantries for families in need. We strongly believe that keeping families together not only protects the human-animal bond but keeps pets out of shelters.
Helping families keep their furry family members
Pets for Life, our groundbreaking community outreach program that has served more than 250,000 animals, recognizes that poverty and structural inequity make it difficult for people in underserved areas to access veterinary care and pet wellness services. We’ve seen time and again over the years that regardless of geography or socioeconomic status, people love their pets but many face barriers in securing the necessary resources.
To help address these challenges, Pets for Life delivers in-depth guidance and support to organizations and veterinary professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada. The goal is to create and sustain community outreach and pet owner support programs. The program also attacks the roots of inequality, emphasizing the need for organizations and service providers to understand the impact systemic poverty has on pet keeping. We work with local animal protection agencies to implement a community-based approach that honors the love people have for their pets. For example, if an officer responds to a call about a thin dog and finds that the family fell on hard times, we encourage the officer to connect the family to a pet food pantry or animal care services rather than conducting a criminal intervention.
This concludes our series on how we work to save animals, but our fight for their well-being continues. From the rabbit in a testing lab to the family dog displaced by a flood or the coyote being targeted in a wildlife killing contest, animals often find themselves in threatening situations through no fault of their own. We believe they all have dignity and deserve humane treatment. To fight for them more effectively, we’re collaborating with likeminded organizations and individuals, marshaling the community’s resources and strength. This work is our calling, and we welcome you to join us in shaping a more humane world.
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